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Where things stand
The surgeon general, Jerome Adams, warned the country on Sunday that the coronavirus crisis was about to get worse, and fast. “The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment,” he told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s going to be our 9/11 moment. It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives, and we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part.” At one point, he explicitly addressed the handful of governors who have yet to issue stay-at-home orders. “If you can’t give us 30 days, governors, give us, give us a week, give us what you can, so that we don’t overwhelm our health care systems over this next week,” he said.
In his daily briefing, President Trump also warned of the tough road ahead, though he notably departed from the advice of Adams and other top medical officials. He continued to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug whose effectiveness is currently being tested. “I’m not a doctor,” Trump said, even as he encouraged people to make use of it. “If it does work, it would be a shame we did not do it early,” he added. Reporters asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whether he agreed that people should use the drug before its efficacy had been determined, even though it can cause significant side effects. But Trump prevented him from answering.
Trump is still settling scores from the impeachment inquiry, and he’s doing it out in the open. Late Friday he fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general. The next day he acknowledged that it had been at least partly in response to Atkinson’s decision last year to advance the whistle-blower complaint that set off the president’s impeachment. “He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress,” Trump said. He also endorsed the firing of a Navy captain who had sent a letter demanding aid for his coronavirus-stricken ship.
The pandemic has transformed how the 2020 campaign will play out in terms of both mechanics and strategy. And its effects are being felt by candidates in all sorts of races, from the presidential contest down to the local level. For incumbents, embracing a strong response could prove to be a political boost. Then again, frustration and tragedy could lead to an inevitable loss of faith in establishment figures. No matter the level of federal or state intervention candidates prefer, the issue they must confront first and foremost is the virus, and what it means for both health care and economic policy.
At a time when doing what’s normal puts you radically out of step, one state is sticking to its guns and moving forward with its primary tomorrow. That state is Wisconsin, a lone experiment amid a nationwide sea of caution. Poll workers have dropped out by the thousands because of safety concerns, and the National Guard will be deployed to understaffed polling places. Election clerks, who have more of an obligation to show up than other poll workers, sent a letter last week to Tony Evers, the Democratic governor, saying that they would be “putting themselves and their families at risk” by doing their jobs. The Republican-controlled Legislature refused a request by Evers to mail ballots to all voters, but over a million of them have already requested absentee ballots.
On the eve of the Wisconsin primary, join a few members of our politics team today at 4 p.m. Eastern as they discuss how the coronavirus has upended the campaign in ways large and small. Explore the nitty-gritty of the extended primary season — and their thinking about November. Bring your questions for Rachel Dry, the deputy politics editor, and Katie Glueck and Sydney Ember, national politics reporters. You can register for the call here.
President Trump at the White House coronavirus briefing on Sunday. “What do you have to lose?” he asked as, for the second day in a row, he recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine on coronavirus patients despite the guidance of doctors and health experts.
Greg Abbott is trying not to rock the boat in Texas. Is that sustainable?
In his first campaign for governor of Texas, in 2014, Greg Abbott pledged to be a bridge between the far-right and pro-business wings of the Republican Party, someone who would lead as the opposite of a flamethrower and in such a way that even moderate Democrats could get behind.
Now he is in his second term, and that tactic has worked to a large extent. But in the midst of a pandemic, many Texans’ patience for a middle-of-the-road approach has run low.
On the one hand, Mr. Abbott has tried to heed the recommendations of public health experts for how to combat the spread of the coronavirus in his state, refusing to play down its threat even as other Texas Republicans were happy to write it off. On the other, he’s been acutely aware of the politics behind a statewide stay-at-home order, wary of upsetting those Republican voters who insist that such a directive grossly infringes upon their liberties.
As the former Democratic presidential candidate and San Antonio mayor Julián Castro put it, however, states are now either in “safe” or “unsafe” mode — there is no in-between. And a growing number of Texans, Republicans included, believe that as the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread, Mr. Abbott’s mixed signals have left their state in the latter.